Citizen Staff Writer
When Ernie’s cancer was diagnosed early this year, his veterinarian estimated the daring dog would be dead in a month.
As the feisty, three-legged terrier mix was known to do, he defied the odds.
Ernie died peacefully Monday, said owner Bob Taylor. Ernie was 16. “He was a fighter,” said Taylor, 63. “He never gave up. He had an uncanny will to live.”
That will served the courageous canine well, especially when it came to treating his two bouts with cancer.
Ernie went through chemo therapy and radiation two years ago, which cost him his leg.
When the second bout of cancer hit, Taylor tried the experimental Navy Protocol, which uses a mixture of FDA-approved drugs to starve tumors by cutting off their blood supply.
Named after the golden retriever Navy that was first to receive the treatment in 2000, the protocol has been used only in animals but may one day be approved for people.
Ernie was in remission by August. Taylor dubbed him “Tucson’s miracle dog.”
But one lung still was affected, Taylor said, where the cancer metastasized.
“His heart was not able to pump blood through the lung,” Taylor said. “It got worse within the last 48 hours. When it was time, we had to put him down. He died in my arms.”
Donations in Ernie’s honor may be made to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to the attention of Meredith Moore.
Taylor also is planning to set up a foundation to help other dogs with cancer receive treatment.
“Navy Protocol may not be the cure for all dogs,” Taylor said, “but it certainly abated Ernie’s untimely and rapid death.”
Ernie started his life as a desert dog, running with coyotes around the Catalina Pueblo neighborhood, near North Campbell Avenue and East Skyline Drive.
The plucky pooch’s most extensive contact with humans was snatching bones off the porch left by Taylor and his wife, Lori, 62.
Ernie became man’s best friend when Bob Taylor came home from back surgery in 1999 and the dog jumped on his bed.
Taylor was soon taking Ernie everywhere, from his office at Long Realty to First United Methodist Church services.
Ernie also had a private table at Blanco Tacos + Tequila and a little red stroller Taylor would take to frequent outdoor concerts and Rillito River walks.
Ernie’s last public appearance was at the church’s blessing of the animals Oct. 26. After the Tucson Citizen ran his story the following day, Taylor was contacted by other publications and a television documentary crew.
“Ernie’s magical,” Taylor said. “He attracted people, everyone. He was just a gift from God.”
Donations in Ernie’s honor can be made to:
The Humane Society of Southern Arizona, Attn: Meredith Moore, 3450 N. Kelvin Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85716.